This was Stephen’s reply: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham in Mesopotamia before he settled in Haran.”
Stephen has been accused of blaspheming against the Temple and the Law of Moses.
He starts his testimony by reminding the council of their ancestors. The patriarch Abraham was called by God to leave his home and come to the land of promise.
God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision which has continued down the generations. Joseph was sold into slavery but became the saviour of his family and of the nation.
At first glance, this seems like an odd way of defending oneself on a charge of blasphemy. But by reciting the history of Israel, or at least part of it, Stephen is saying that he is a part of the story. He is a descendant of Abraham just as the members of the council are.
He reminds the council that God appeared to Abraham long before there was a Temple and a Law. In fact, Abraham’s first encounter with the Lord was outside of Israel. Much of Israel’s history in fact was spent outside the land.
I think the message Stephen is trying to get across is that the Lord is sovereign. He often does things we don’t expect. The latest of these unexpected things for Stephen was the death and resurrection of the Messiah.
The difference between the truly spiritual person and the religious person is humility. The religious person constantly tries to control God, to keep Him safely contained in a box. But God refuses to be contained or controlled by people.
Humility lies in knowing that God is bigger than we are, that He is in control and this is a good thing.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the knowledge that you are everywhere and not contained in a building. You have called me to follow you. Please help me to do this in humility, always letting you direct my paths. Amen.